Ben Stokes’ record-breaking innings in Wednesday’s ODI against New Zealand was described by teammate Chris Woakes as further proof that he is “a superhuman who can do incredible things”.
Woakes said the 32-year-old was propelled to his score of 182, the highest by an Englishman in the format, by the relief of playing without the burden of captaincy and the reception he received from England’s brotherhood The squad is largely unchanged from the squad that won the World Cup in 2019 with Stokes at its heart.
“It’s great for the group and obviously brilliant for Ben,” Woakes said of Stokes’ form. “We obviously see Ben as this superhuman who can do incredible things. We know he can do it. He is an incredible cricketer but returning to the team after his retirement will do a lot of good for his confidence. We always have performance fears so it’s great for his confidence and great for the team’s confidence and belief that we can achieve big results.
“It was an incredible blow. I think it’s probably a refreshing feeling for him to come back into the team without carrying the captaincy on his shoulders. Managing the England Test team is a tough job. He probably saw this as a breath of fresh air to play his natural game and be his natural person. This group of players who have been with this team for a long time always feel comfortable when we get back together. For Ben, coming out of the Ashes is a breath of fresh air.”
England take a 2-1 lead into their final game at Lord’s on Friday, which will also be the final game for most of the World Cup squad before traveling to India later this month. The only negative so far is the fact that two potentially important players were unable to take part: Mark Wood was still recovering from the rigors of the Ashes and Jason Roy was suffering from a series of back spasms.
“At the end of the Ashes he was in pain,” Woakes said of Wood. “I think he had a sore heel and is coming back from that. He’s a big asset for us before the World Cup, you don’t want to risk him too early. Bruised heels, you think it’s going to last a week or two, and in the end they’re pretty long injuries that can come back again and again, so I’m just trying to be careful with it.
“He will be important for us in India. A player with Mark’s experience can step in straight away, he’s not the type who needs a lot of playing time. I don’t think it’s too much of a problem if he doesn’t appear in this series.”
Roy was due to play on Wednesday but a back spasm on the morning of the game ruled him out and raised concerns about his fitness. “He was close to playing but when he got to the oval and started moving he felt another twinge,” Woakes said.
“So close to a World Cup it is a certain risk to send him into a game when you are not sure how he will perform. I’m sure he’s desperate to get out of there and I’m sure he’s frustrated. Before the World Cup you want to get in shape a bit and play as many games as possible, but he is a resilient character, the boys have looked after him and I am sure he will be fine.”
New Zealand will once again be without Mitchell Santner, who sustained a knee injury while fielding in the second game on Sunday. However, the scans of the joint encourage him and he doesn’t expect him to be eligible for the World Cup.